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Libya: national consensus needed for building institutions, security – UN envoy

Special Representative Tarek Mitri briefs the Security Council.
UN Photo/Evan Schneider
Special Representative Tarek Mitri briefs the Security Council.

Libya: national consensus needed for building institutions, security – UN envoy

While the new Government of Libya has evinced determination to tackle the many challenges faced by the nascent democracy, national dialogue must be held so that difficult decisions on a range of issues can be taken with broad popular support, a United Nations envoy said today.

“It is worth insisting that many difficult decisions have yet to be taken in the areas of constitution-making, transitional justice, reconciliation and, it goes without saying, security sector reform,” Tarek Mitri, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), told the Security Council.

“In going forward, broad-based support to these decisions is necessary,” Mr. Mitri said, adding that: “For this purpose, Libyan authorities, political forces, community and tribal leaders, revolutionaries and civil society organizations should engage in a process of national dialogue. UNSMIL is committed to assist in this endeavour.”

Libya has been undergoing a transition toward a modern democratic State, after decades of autocratic rule and the toppling of the regime of Muammar al-Qadhafi. The former leader ruled the North African country for more than 40 years until a pro-democracy uprising in 2011 – similar to the protests in other countries in the Middle East and North Africa – led to civil war and the end of his regime.

UNSMIL has been assisting the country’s transition process. The persistence of revolutionary brigades and incidents of renewed fighting in various parts of the country are among the security challenges facing Libya, which also needs to prepare a new constitution, promote rule of law, protect human rights, and counter illicit arms proliferation.

In today’s briefing, Mr. Mitri reported that the new Government of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan and his cabinet have officially taken office and appeared to enjoy broad support from the elected legislature, the General National Congress (GNC), political parties and the public.

Pressure has been mounting, however, for progress in the constitution-making process but the GNC has not yet determined whether the members of the constitution-drafting body are to be appointed or elected, an issue intertwined with regional politics, he said, adding that this is an important area where UNSMIL was encouraging inclusive dialogue, with adequate participation of women.

The security situation remained “precarious,” he said, while security reform gained momentum and coherence, with over 20,000 revolutionary fighters having enlisted with the Ministry of Interior’s training process since security restructuring plans were announced in December.

Those plans have met with resistance from revolutionary brigades who were not yet ready to surrender their weapons, he said. For that purpose, UNSMIL was offering technical advice on demobilization and reintegration, training, national security policies, legal frameworks, organizational structure and budget.

Meanwhile, discontent among the population in the south has increased with accusations of insufficient service delivery prompting a temporary walkout by some GNC members. In addition, the country’s president was targeted by an assassination attempt on 3 January, and the Italian consul vehicle was fired upon on 12 January in Benghazi, where police officials have been killed.

Benghazi residents organized a demonstration on 28 December in which they demanded an end to the attacks against security personnel and an investigation into the recent events, and, most important of all, the dissolution of all armed groups, he said

Events in Benghazi, Bani Walid and elsewhere highlighted the urgent need to promote reconciliation and transitional justice, he said, noting UN efforts in that regard and a new law introduced by the Minister of Justice providing for accountability and truth-seeking mechanisms.

At the same time, he noted further efforts for the “political isolation” of persons associated with the former regime, for which UNSMIL had urged effects on reconciliation and social cohesion be taken into account.

UNSMIL also continues to urge the Libyan authorities to accelerate the screening of detainees held since the civil conflict, the release of those against whom there is insufficient evidence, the transfer of detainees to state-controlled facilities and the reform of the prison system.

Security along Libya’s borders also remained a concern, Mr. Mitri said, particularly given the possible impact of recent developments in Mali. Agreements on border security cooperation resulted from a December visit of Prime Minister Zeidan to Algeria, Chad, Niger and Sudan, he added.

Coinciding with the Council’s discussion of Libya, the UN today is opening a multimedia exhibition at its New York Headquarters focusing on its support for the country’s post-conflict transition. “Libya in Transition: Helping to Build a New Democratic Libya” features the work of Iason Athanasiadis, a photographer for UNSMIL, and includes contributions from the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS), courtesy of photographer Giovanni Diffidenti.